Friday, December 24, 2010

Cybils Nominations: A collection of reviews

Just a brief reminder that my reviews of Cybils-nominated titles do not reflect the views of the other judges, our committee as a whole, what's going to be on the shortlist, etc. etc.

Another collection of short reviews here...

The Perfect Gift by J. Samia Mair. Sarah is upset because she doesn't have an Eid gift for her mother. She goes on a walk in the woods and finds a beautiful flower. Instead of picking it, she puts a little fence around it and shows it to her family as a gift from Allah. Her family enjoys the beauty of the woods as Allah's gift every year. Like the previous Eid book I looked at....a while ago, this is one for families that are already celebrating this holiday, i.e. practicing Muslims. There's a brief glossary in the back of some Arab words, but if you aren't familiar with this holiday or the Muslim calendar the book is confusing. Recommended if you have a Muslim presence in your community. Borrowed from the library.
Good Night, Little Sea Otter by Janet Halfmann, illustrated by Wish Williams. It's time for bed, but Little Sea Otter has to say good night first - to the sea lions, the seagulls, the fish, the clams...then of course he can't forget Mama and all the beautiful stars in the sky...Children will giggle over Little Sea Otter's stalling techniques and ooh and ahh over Williams' colorful and cute illustrations of undersea life. A sweet and funny bedtime story that parents and children will enjoy together. Review copy provided by the author, published by Star Bright Books.
Little Chimp's Big Day by Lisa Schroeder, illustrated by Lisa McCue. Little Chimp is worried - where is Mother? His branch breaks and he goes on a wild adventure through the jungle searching for mother. Finally, they find each other again and curl up for the night. Of course, Mother was safely watching him the whole time, through all his adventures. This is a fun story for toddlers - brisk, bouncy rhyme, lots of action and animals to point out, and the mother chimp to find in each picture. Review copy received from Sterling.
The Glasshouse by Paul Collins, illustrated by Jo Thompson. This was a really...strange book. Clara lives alone in a glasshouse, growing amazing and perfect pumpkins. People come to her and she never leaves her glasshouse, because everything she needs is inside. But one day, a boy peeks in then leaves and she looks out to see where he's going. She's shocked to see broken glasshouses all around and retreats to the safety of her own glasshouse. Clara becomes ever more obsessive, checking for cracks, refusing to allow people in, spending time chasing imaginary bugs and intruders instead of caring for her pumpkins, which become diseased and misshapen. Finally, Clara realizes her pumpkins are ugly and she is lonely. She breaks her glasshouse and goes to the market for the first time. The story has an obvious message, but it's just...weird. The pictures have odd angles and the faces are distorted. I'm not sure who you would give this book to - agoraphobics? Review copy received from Ford St. Publishing, Australia.
Because you are with me by Kylie Dunstan. Another offering from Australia, but this one I really liked. A little girl talks about all the things she can do and be because of her dad's love and support. The text is simple but the real attraction here are the illustrations. Handmade paper collages give a beautifully textured and fuzzy feeling to the warmth and love between father and daughter in the text. There are funny and sad moments, but dad is always there, helping his little girl. A perfect gift for Father's Day or read aloud for bedtime. Review copy provided by Lothian Children's Books
Do you have a cat? by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Geraldo Valerio. A list of famous people throughout history and their cats. A combination of history and adulation of cats. I didn't care for the illustrations, I thought they were awkward and the faces all looked the same. There are quite a few cat picture books out there and the historical personage gimmick doesn't work well enough to set this one apart. Review copy provided by Eerdmans.
Water, Weed, and Wait by Edith Hope Fine and Angela Demos Halpin, illustrated by Colleen Madden. A classroom full of kids grow a school garden with the help of Miss Marigold. At first, they're not sure anything will grow - the ground is hard, the weeds prolific. But their grumpy neighbor has a marvelous garden and they have everything they need - "plans, plants, and people" - to follow Miss Marigold's instructions, "water, weed, and wait." With lots of hard work and help, even from grumpy Mr. Barkley, their garden is a beautiful success! There's information in the back about starting a school garden and some photos of a real Master Gardener and her school gardens. I would have liked a little more information about this lady - she was apparently the inspiration for the book. A fun book for schools or libraries interested in starting a communal garden for kids. Review copy provided by Tricycle Press.
Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams, illustrated by Floyd Cooper. Gregory is on the beach. He draws a lion and dad says not to go in the water or leave Sandy Lion. Gregory doesn't...although Sandy's tail gets longer and longer until Gregory realizes he's lost. No need to worry though, he just follows Sandy's tail back to dad and safety. This simple, lovely story is perfectly pitched for toddlers and preschoolers who will completely understand Gregory's experience of getting absorbed and suddenly missing mom or dad. I loved seeing an African-American child portrayed in a non-urban setting, especially with a father. I didn't personally care for the illustrations - I like to see more colors - but I do think the shades of brown are perfect for the sandy story and the beach. This one will be a favorite for many families and children in story time. Recommended. Review copy received from Boyds Mills Press.

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